Why Mac? A Ramble
June 30th, 2010
As a lover of all things open, why is my main workstation still a MacBook?
As far back as I can remember I have dreamt of owning one of those shiny Apple things, the computers that looked like TVs with differently coloured pieces of translucent plastic and the thing my best friend had with a pod on a stalk. They looked strange, exotic and held a mythical status in my mind. Fast forward to my late teens and I now have one and, frankly, have not been disappointed.
Arguably, the world is moving away from the OS of your own computer, increasingly it simply doesn't matter, the Web is becoming it's own OS with the like of cloud computing and Web 2.0 services making your choice of browser as pertinent as that of OS (of course there will probably always be those without a choice). But some OSs make it easier than others.
With the introduction of Gwibber installed as default with Ubuntu 10.04, Mark Shuttleworth and his team are showing that this Linux distro is ready for the mainstream and knows where it's headed. Let's face it, Linux is traditionally for geeks, who'd have thought an OS built by geeks would be the first to have a feature like Gwibber? Social integration from the outset.
But back to OS X, it's like Linux but stripped of all the lovely ideals, openness and community (to some extent, Apple users are usually best known for their loyalty, not their helpfulness) instead there is refinement. To me, this is what OS X does so well it's actually worth trading the others for.
Thinking about Apple, the company draws some parallels with Facebook. They both pioneer and contribute to open source programs (a good list of services Facebook uses) and yet themselves are sometimes seen as abusive of their power and closed; yet they are both hugely successful and ubiquitous. I still think it comes down to this issue of polishedness and usability. The social network open source equivalent of Facebook, diaspora, is currently in development and we'll see what the team comes up with but I bet usability and a sense of refinement will mar it's early releases. Admittedly open source projects are improving leaps and bounds but they are still behind. It isn't long after installing 10.04 that I was reaching into Terminal to get a piece of hardware to work, a process that would quite frankly scare my grandparents and most friends.
Money is often a good incentive to work well (although this is not always the case and too much money can have adverse effects; there was research into this but I can't remember the source). The established companies (maybe I'm being a little optimistic in calling Facebook an 'established company') have money to dole out and experience in being a business.
These companies have had time to develop. To develop a company as sophisticated as Apple or as complex as the workings of Facebook is going to take a lot of time. Both started with the basics and worked up but competing companies and services have to go straight into the deep end. I think the next big thing will come from a team of mixed young people with fresh ideas and established professionals.
Willingness of the Userbase
Willingness is a huge factor, both in the company and of the users. The people that make it need to want to make it and this can't be more true of volunteers for Linux but also for employees of really awesome companies. Remember I started with saying how much I wanted one of those Mac-things? Imagine if you actually got to work for a company like Apple. It's all about image, and Google does this phenomenally well.
The users are also critical, they need to want to a) use the product b) be involved with it. This is seen in the high quality apps that are used by the users, a somewhat self-reflexive process (but then we go into power relationships and all sorts of other theory and I don't want to stray into that in this post). I believe apps like Espresso, Papers and Pixelmator would be very different if developed for Linux. Maybe it's all to do with Objective-C... but again, that's for a separate article.
Anyhow, this has turned out much longer and complex than I initially expected. But I think what I'm trying to say is the main reason I haven't installed Ubuntu over 10.6 yet is it's attention to detail and user-friendliness. I hope maybe you've learnt something over the course of this post or been made aware of something new. Why do you use what you're using?